Evolution of Chicago House

History

 

While garage house was starting to develop in New York, Chicago’s own brand of house music began to take shape. Chicago house started with DJ Frankie Knuckles at The Warehouse and Ron Hardy at the Music Box. Both would go on to be known as highly influential players in house music, with Knuckles often called the Godfather of House.

 

Influences

 

If garage house was just extended disco, Chicago house was extended disco, electro funk, synthpop, and hip hop all mixed together. The result was a distinct sound that had a lasting impact on the aesthetic of house music.

 

Sound

 

Chicago house is characterized by the use of Roland instruments like 808 drum machines, 303 basslines, Juno Keyboards and other various sequencers popular in the 80s. From a production standpoint, Chicago house uses quantization, heavy repetition, up/down arpeggios, and simple basslines. Much like garage house, Chicago house also relies heavily on remixing older tunes. The major difference is Chicago house remixes incorporate a whole plethora of genres instead of just disco, making the end product sound less like any other single genre.

 

 

Chicago, 1984

 

Jesse Saunders ripped off the synth bass line from the 1980 track “Space Invaders” (by Player One) and used it as the foundation for his song “On and on”. More than any other track that came before, the song re-invents the genre with its disco beat beneath heavy synths and vocal samples. It was neither disco nor electronica, it was house music.

 

 

Chicago, 1986

 

Marshall Jefferson uses house music’s first piano riffs masterfully in "Move Your Body".

 

 

The same year, "Jack Your Body" was inspired by New York's garage scene, but Steve Hurley's interplay between high hat and kick drum, drops, and drum rolls were very original and would become house music staples for years to come. The song was the first house song to hit #1 in the UK and inspired an entire generation of electronic music creators in England.

 

 

Chicago, 1987

 

Frankie Knuckles releases a version of Jamie Principle’s “Your Love” that becomes a house music classic.

 

 

Chicago, 1989

 

“French Kiss” by Lil Louis gets it just right and climbs both dance and pop charts around the world.

 

 

Evolution of House Music

Check out our 31-part series, starting with an overview of house music's 40-year history.

Read more

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